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Bossard v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

September 2, 2014

OLA JOLINE BOSSARD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

VICTOR E. BIANCHINI, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

In December of 2009, Plaintiff Ola Joline Bossard applied for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under the Social Security Act. The Commissioner of Social Security denied the application.

Plaintiff, represented by Bothwell & Hamill, P.C., Thomas Bothwell, Esq., of counsel, commenced this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405 (g) and 1383 (c)(3). The parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge. (Docket No. 7).

On May 1, 2014, the Honorable Rosanna Malouf Peterson, Chief United States District Judge, referred this case to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B). (Docket No. 18).

II. BACKGROUND

The procedural history may be summarized as follows:

On December 30, 2009, Plaintiff applied for SSI benefits, alleging disability beginning July 1, 2008. (T at 106-109).[1] The application was denied initially and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On October 27, 2011, a hearing was held before ALJ James W. Sherry. (T at 32). Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified. (T at 37-41, 43-57). The ALJ also received testimony from Donna Lapoint, a vocational expert (T at 41-42, 57-64).

On December 21, 2011, ALJ Sherry issued a written decision denying the application for benefits and finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (T at 8-24). The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision on July 15, 2013, when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (T at 1-6).

On September 12, 2013, Plaintiff, acting by and through her counsel, timely commenced this action by filing a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. (Docket No. 5). The Commissioner interposed an Answer on November 19, 2013. (Docket No. 11).

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on March 17, 2014. (Docket No. 15). The Commissioner moved for summary judgment on April 28, 2014. (Docket No. 17). Plaintiff filed a reply brief on June 2, 2014. (Docket No. 21).

For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion is denied, Plaintiff's motion is granted, and this case is remanded for further proceedings.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Sequential Evaluation Process

The Social Security Act ("the Act") defines disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act also provides that a plaintiff shall be determined to be under a disability only if any impairments are of such severity that a plaintiff is not only unable to do previous work but cannot, considering plaintiff's age, education and work experiences, engage in any other substantial work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). Thus, the definition of disability consists of both medical and vocational components. Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).

The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Step one determines if the person is engaged in substantial gainful activities. If so, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404. 1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If not, the decision maker proceeds to step two, which determines whether plaintiff has a ...


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